Toledo to Visit Detroit on Wednesday Evening in Mid-Week Affair
- Toledo (2-5) continues its series of road games when it makes a short trip up I-75 to meet Horizon League foe Detroit on Wednesday, Dec. 5. Tip-off time for the contest is set for 7:00 p.m. in Calihan Hall.
- The Rockets, who will be playing their seventh of eight games away from Savage Arena on Wednesday, feature the MAC's top scorer with junior G Rian Pearson leading the league at 18.9 ppg. Sophomore G Julius Brown also appears in the Top 10 with his 14.9 scoring mark.
- Pearson, who scored a career-high 30 points in UT's 80-68 win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi last Wednesday, has made significant improvement at the charity stripe this season. He possesses a 73.7 FT% (42-of-57) after entering the 2012-13 campaign with a 66.7 mark.
- Toledo has picked up right where it left off as one of the MAC's top free-throw shooting squads. The Rockets are pacing the conference for a second straight year at 75.2 percent after topping the league last year with a 72.6 mark. UT has five players shooting 73.0 percent or better led by junior F Matt Smith's 85.7 mark.
- Three of Toledo's five losses have been by six points or less - 84-81 (OT) at Northern Iowa, 78-73 at Cleveland State and 72-66 at Florida Gulf Coast.
- The combined record of the opponents UT has lost to is 30-11 (.732).
- Detroit is picked to finish second in the Horizon League after capturing the Horizon League Tournament title last season to earn a trip to the NCAA Tournament. The Titans have lost three in a row at Miami (FL), 77-62, Bowling Green, 70-65, and Pittsburgh, 74-61.
- A member of the John R. Wooden Award Preseason Top 50 list, junior G Ray McCallum leads Detroit with 21.2 ppg and 3.7 apg. Senior F Doug Anderson paces the Titans with 7.2 rpg and ranks second with 12.8 ppg.
TOD THE BUILDER
Head Coach Tod Kowalczyk posted a seven-win improvement from Year 1 (10-20) to Year 2 (17-11) at Green Bay. He doubled that feat and more at Toledo last year as UT registered 15 more wins than his first season at the Rocket helm.
When looking at his career record minus his first season at the helm at both Green Bay and Toledo, Coach Kowalczyk's record is 147-114 (.563) overall and 76-58 (.567) in conference play.
Rockets Victimized by Late Rally in 78-73 Loss at Cleveland State
Toledo led for the first 39 minutes, but Cleveland State capitalized on four UT turnovers in the final four minutes to rally for a 78-73 victory over the Rockets.
UT shot 52.1 percent in the contest and received season-best scoring performances from junior F Matt Smith (20 pts.), junior F Reese Holliday (16 pts.) and freshman C Nathan Boothe (15 pts.).
Sophomore G Charlie Lee paced the Viking attack with a career-high 22 points. CSU shot 52.9 percent, including a red-hot 65.4 clip (17-of-26) in the second half.
Toledo bolted out to an early 11-2 advantage but couldn't extend its lead any further and took a 32-26 lead into intermission. The Vikings tied the score at 39-39 less than four minutes into the second half, but Smith knocked down back-to-back treys for a 45-41 lead. Junior G Rian Pearson then scored six straight points to put the Rockets up nine, 56-47, midway through the stanza.
The Vikings chipped away though and eventually tied the score at 69-69 with 2:33 to play. Pearson hit a pair of free throws to give the Rockets a 71-69 lead with 2:15 left, UT had a chance to extend its margin following freshman G Josh Lemons' steal but a turnover led to Douglas tying the game with a reverse layup with 1:22 remaining.
Pearson then missed a 15-foot jumper on Toledo's next possession, and Lee hit a three-pointer to give CSU its first lead of the contest with 31 seconds left. Douglas then stole a pass at midcourt and took it the length of the court for a layup to extend the Vikings' lead to five (76-71) with 19.3 seconds remaining.
Holliday was then fouled before UT could get off a three-point shot and sank a pair to make it a one-possession contest with 10.6 ticks showing on the clock. CSU was able to in-bounds the ball against the Rockets' press and Lee hit two free throws to ice the game.
NOTES FROM THE ROCKETS' 78-73 LOSS AT CLEVELAND STATE
- The Rockets are shooting 78.8 percent (93-of-118) from the charity stripe in their last four contests after making 81.8 percent (18-of-22) against CSU.
- Matt Smith scored a season-high 20 points for the best scoring outing of his career against a NCAA Division I opponent. Smith's career best is 21 vs. Indiana Northwest last year.
- Smith also registered a career-high three treys and a season-best five free throws.
- Junior F Reese Holliday scored a season-high 16 points, two points shy of his career best of 18 against Ball State when he was a freshman
- Freshman C Nathan Boothe tallied season highs with 15 points, two blocked shots and 31 minutes.
- Junior F Rian Pearson grabbed a team-high six rebounds and three steals. He is averaging a team-best 2.3 spg and has a steal in every game.
PEARSON LOOKS TO DUPLICATE MAC PLAYER OF YEAR-CALIBER SEASON
After making his presence felt immediately in his first season in the MAC last season, junior G Rian Pearson is looking to raise that level of play even higher in the 2012-13 campaign. Pearson finished third in the voting for MAC Player of the Year a year ago and also earned first-team NABC All-District 14 and second-team All-MAC accolades. In his first seven games this season, he is leading the MAC with 18.9 ppg to go along with 5.6 rpg and 2.4 spg.
Pearson tied for the MAC scoring lead last year with 16.4 ppg and ranked third with 8.3 rpg (1st with 2.9 offensive rpg). Pearson was a strong defender as well, leading the team with 1.6 spg (T-6th in MAC) and ranking tied for third in the MAC with 1.9 spg in league games only. He tied a school record with seven steals to go along with 19 points and seven rebounds in a career-high 38 minutes vs. Ball State (Jan. 10).
Pearson tallied a season-best 29 points, 12 rebounds and four steals at Akron (Feb. 1) and registered an impressive 18-point, career-high 17-rebound effort against Ohio (Feb. 8). He notched 12 20-point outings, ranked second in the MAC with 10 double-doubles with three of those coming in his last six contests.
MORE RIAN RUMBLINGS
Rian Pearson was the only player to rank in the MAC's Top 10 in points (16.4 ppg/T-1st), rebounds (8.3 rpg/3rd) and steals (1.6 spg/T-6th) last year...Pearson ranked fifth nationally in rebounding among guards last year...Pearson led the Rockets in rebounding a team-high 28 times (including 16 straight games from Jan. 18-Mar. 7), scoring on a team-best 17 occasions and steals 12 times.
Running the Show
After capturing MAC Freshman of the Year honors last year, Julius Brown ranks second on the team this year with 14.9 ppg. He is also leading the Rockets with 4.1 apg and scored a season-high 25 points in UT's 82-69 win over Samford (Nov. 21).
Brown took over the reins of Toledo's high-powered offense right from the start last year and has started every game of his collegiate career. He has dished out seven or more assists on 16 occasions in his career (career-high 11 vs. McNeese State to go along with 15 pts.) and set a school record for most points scored (427) by a freshman in school history.
Brown was named the MAC West Division Player of the Week twice (Feb. 20, Feb. 27) and also was named the MAC's Freshman of the Month for February. He ranked sixth nationally among freshman in assists and ranked in the MAC's Top 16 in assists (4th/4.9 apg), assist/turnover ratio (6th/1.6) and points (16th/11.9 ppg).
The Markham, IL native tied his season high with 29 points and tied a school record for a MAC game as well with a 90.9 FG% (10-of-11) in UT's 72-67 win over Central Michigan (Feb. 22). Brown's previous season best occurred when he tallied a season-high 29 points with a season-best seven treys at Florida Gulf Coast (Dec. 22).
FROM WAY DOWNTOWN
Senior G Dominique Buckley has picked right where he left off last year as one of the MAC's top long-distance shooters. Buckley leads the Rockets with a 48.1 3PTFG% (13-of-27) and is averaging 8.6 ppg. In UT's 84-81 (OT) loss at Northern Iowa on Nov. 14, Buckley scored a season-high 19 points and tied his career high with five treys (in seven attempts).
In 2011-12, Buckley topped the MAC with an 89.5 free-throw percentage and also knocked down a team-high 1.7 treys per game (T-12th in MAC) and ranked second with a 41.9 3PTFG% (6th in MAC). He also was second on the team with 2.9 apg (15th in MAC), a 1.5 assist/turnover ratio and fourth with 9.7 ppg.
A Romulus, MI native, Buckley played in 27 games in 2009-10 for Iowa State before transferring to Toledo. He averaged 1.4 ppg and 0.9 apg for the Cyclones with a 40.9 3PTFG% (9-of-22) in 7.4 mpg. Buckley enjoyed a standout prep career at Romulus H.S. where he was ranked as the nation's 124th-best player according to ESPN 150 rankings.
SMITH AN INSIDE-OUTSIDE THREAT FOR ROCKETS
Junior F Matt Smith, who is averaging 7.7 ppg and 2.6 rpg with a team-best 85.7 FT%, scored a season-high 20 points and knocked down a career-best three treys in last Saturday's 78-73 loss at Cleveland State.
Smith ranked sixth in the MAC last year with a team-high 54.0 FG%. The Whitewright, TX native raised his level of play against the MAC's East Division, averaging 10.0 ppg and 5.1 rpg with an 86.4 FT% (19-of-22) in UT's eight contests. Smith scored his MAC season-best 18 points and grabbed six boards against Ohio (Feb. 8).
Smith tied for 10th in the MAC with a team-high 28 blocks (0.8 bpg) and shot a team-high 45.5% (20-of-44) from three-point range.
HOLLIDAY PROVIDES BOARDWORK & DEFENSE FOR ROCKETS
Junior F Reese Holliday has given the Rockets consistent play off the bench and ranks third on the team with 9.1 ppg and second with 5.4 rpg while playing 27.7 mpg this season. In Saturday's 78-73 loss at Cleveland State, Holliday tallied a season-high 16 points and has knocked down 15-of-16 free throws in his last two games.
Last year, Holliday ranked second on the team and 13th in the MAC with 5.8 rpg while also receiving the assignment of guarding the opposition's top scorer. He also tied for eighth in the MAC with 4.1 defensive rpg and grabbed a career-high 14 rebounds vs. Youngstown State (Dec. 17). Holliday provided a significant impact for the Rockets in the MAC Tournament, averaging 9.3 ppg and 8.0 rpg with a 57.1 3FG% (4-of-7) in three contests.
In 2010-11, Holliday topped the league's freshmen and sophomores and ranked eighth overall in the MAC in his rookie campaign with 6.6 rpg. He also led the league with 2.83 offensive rpg. He also was the first Rocket to record double-digit rebound totals in three straight contests in over 10 years (Greg Stempin-Jan. 29-Feb. 5, 2000).
ROCKETS DISPLAYED IMPRESSIVE IMPROVEMENT IN 2011-12
Toledo produced one of the top turnarounds in college basketball last season with its 15-win improvement from a 4-28 win-loss mark in 2010-11. Head Coach Tod Kowalczyk and his coaching staff inherited a program that had endured three straight losing seasons (11-19 in 2007-08, 7-25 in 2008-09 and 4-28 in 2009-10) after capturing the 2006-07 MAC regular-season title.
Kowalczyk also achieved significant improvement from Year 1 to Year 2 at UW-Green Bay, going from 10-20 his first season to 17-11 his second year.
RECAPPING ROCKETS' POSTSEASON HISTORY
Toledo made its first appearance in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament last year for its first postseason berth since playing in the 2007 National Invitation Tournament. The Rockets have made appearances in four NCAA and six NIT Tournaments during its 97-year history. The Rockets' four NCAA berths came in 1954, 1967, 1979 and 1980, while UT's seven NIT berths came in 1942, 1943, 1981, 1999, 2001, 2004 and 2007.
Taking Advantage of Charity
Toledo topped the Mid-American Conference last year with an impressive 72.6 FT% and is shooting even better this season with a league-high 75.2 percentage.
Junior F Matt Smith leads the way with an 85.7 FT% and is followed by junior F Reese Holliday (83.3), senior G Dominique Buckley (81.8), junior G Rian Pearson (73.7) and sophomore G Julius Brown (73.3).
TOLEDO PRODUCES HOMECOURT TURNAROUND
Toledo emerged victorious in Wednesday's home opener after posting an 11-8 ledger in Savage Arena last season for its first winning home record since the 2007-08 campaign when it registered a 9-3 mark. After experiencing just one losing home campaign (7-9 in 1991-92) in the previous 51 years, the Rockets notched 6-7, 4-11 and 4-12 win-loss marks for a combined 14-30 (.318) ledger over the previous three years (2008-11) in Savage Arena.
Head Coach Tod Kowalczyk posted a 76-28 record (.731) at the Resch Center during his eight-year Green Bay tenure. In his last three seasons, the Phoenix were even better at home by posting a 35-9 (.795) win-loss mark.
Prior to the last three seasons, UT had posted a 55-8 (.873) home record for a five-year period from 2003-08 and was 107-23 (.823) on its homecourt from 1998-2008.
ON THE HORIZON
UT will play one more road game at Eastern Illinois on Saturday, Dec. 8 before hosting Siena Heights on Tuesday, Dec. 18 in an exhibition contest. The Rockets will close out their non-conference slate with home games vs. UIC on Saturday, Dec. 29 and Chicago State on Monday, Dec. 31.
Toledo opens MAC play on Wednesday, Jan. 9 at Kent State before hosting Central Michigan in its league home opener on Saturday, Jan. 12.